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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  October 25, 2014 12:00am-12:31am PDT

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good evening from los angeles, i'm tavis smiley. tonight we continue with part two of our conversation with four-time grammy winner annie lennox about her new c.d. title the "nostalgia" which mimes the great american songbook including classics like "summertime," "god bless the child," and even "strange fruit." her reflect of songs honors the commitment to humanity. please join us for part two of annie lennox coming up right now. ♪ ♪
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and by contributions to your pbs station by viewers like you. thank you. ♪ welcome back tonight to our conversation with the incomparable -- bam, there she is -- annie lennox. her new project, "nostalgia." we were supposed to talk last night for one show because she has so much to be doing. i begged her to stay for another night. the conversation last night was so rich. if you didn't see the conversation last night, go to our website, pbs.org. and find last night's conversation. you will not want to miss what we talked about last night. i think a good jumping off point from last night's conversation
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is this notion of nostalgia. why is the title of this project "nostalgia"? >> it's interesting. i've been exploring song, mostly from the '30s, sigyou see, and they're american. one day this word came to my head, "the nostalgia." like time travel. going back. all of us have our own personal nostalgia and collective noosetnoose ta noosetal -- nostalgia. these songs being written in that time frame, so many thing are different nowadays than they were before. in the times of the '30s when hoagie carmichael of writing, memphis and june and all of that, this is pre-civil rights movement. there was a very different social class, economical divide that was going on in this country. i started to compare and contrast and of thinking, wow, imagine that. there was still bussing going. on black people could not get on the same place on the bus. i thought in some ways it's
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encouraging because you think you know what, with the civil rights movement things changed. there's improvement. i don't know how much, i don't live here, so i can't comment on that. in the work i've been doing over the last decade, where i've been going to country where people have nothing. they're living in poverty. they have all these challenges. i think of the distinction made between western dhauns are resourced and those other countries -- countries where they are rush houred and those other countries where they're continuously facing challenges. i started to realize that themes in these songs haven't gone away. it's just the same as it ever was. >> two things. one, last night you mentioned cole porter. tonight you mentioned hoagie carmichael. you should know i'm smiling on the inside as are my fellow hoosiers. both cole porter and hoagie carmichael are from indiana. i grew up in indiana. so indiana's smiling now. hoagie chaelarmichael, pride of
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indiana. go, hoosier. had to mention that since you mentioned their name. you mentioned obviously you weren't born in this country, scotland is your home. and you've interpreted so many song in the american songbook that were put out -- i'm going to put this as charitiably as i can -- at a time when america of experiencing its dark side, its night side for people of color. a long way of asking how it is that a white girl growing up in scotland ends up being so connected to the struggle of people of color in this country, of people of color in south africa and around the globe. how does that happen to you? >> you know, even when i was a child -- i have to tell you, i come from the northeast of scotland. i was dancing to motown and stacks of music that came through our dance halls. this is the beauty of music, it travels, it journeys.
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all the teenagers at that point were dancinging to this music, and it was infectious. and the same way that, you know, the beatles and rolling stones -- there was this wonderful wave, exchanging cultural wave of music. the beatles and british movement came to america. we also had the benefit of american music. and i'm thinking as a kid and i racism. it always hurt me. when i heard about apartheid as a teenager, i couldn't believe it. when i heard about fascism and nazi germany and how people were marched off to concentration camps and saw the films that proved that this actually happened, i couldn't believe it. i saw how cruel humanity can be toward each other both on a personal level and on a sort of global level. how the same themes travel on through. for me this journey of nostalgia
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-- you could say, oh, sentimental, a little sentimental. there is sentiment and sweet not. it's like -- sweetness. it's like life. you have beauty and kindness. and it co-exists, the shadow side, the darkness. this is my life experience and anybody living on the planet here and now is going to witness. what side you fall on, and to this day when i think about the penal and how many african-americans throughout -- must be politically correct, you see -- in prison, why? why is this? i ask these questions because it really affects me. >> have you always been -- were you curious as a child? have you always been a curious person? >> always, always. led me into trouble. you know, it led me to interesting experiences, as well. yeah. yeah, i'm -- very passionate about thing. and i'm very -- >> i couldn't tell. >> yeah, no. yeah. i guess. >> now that you've come out of your shell, ame to.
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yeah, yeah, yeah -- annie. yeah, yeah, yeah. >> people are distant sometime and immersed -- we get immersed in our own bubble. i do it, too, my bubble, my safe little place. i can't turn away from human rights violations and injustice, i can't. >> we talked last night -- we didn't talk about it but you referenced last night your babies. your precious -- >> my daughters. >> your daughters, your precious children. >> yes. >> you have concerns for raising them in this world? >> well, my daughters are now in their early 20s. of course every parent, you know, has a concern for their babies, toddlers, young children, adolescents. and the concerns change from, oh, my goodness, are they going to fall out the 20 degrees are they going to get on to some heavy -- out the window to are they going to get on to some heavy drug, whatever. different concerns. so far my daughters have turned out beautifully. but i still always have the concern. here the deal -- becoming a parent is the greatest leveler
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of all. and you know how precious a human life is. and then as a mother, you say, oh, i'd like all mothers to have the opportunity to raise their children safely, well, with opportunity, with education. all the things that people tend to take for granted. and you see all children then. your heart open up. and you say, i want that child there with the bare feet and the -- the, you know, ragged clothes, and no food to eat and dangerous -- you want that child to be well. so there's this drive to sort of always want things to be better. but it's -- what do you do with the energy? that's really the question, you know, am i just talking about it, or am i actually going to be able to make a difference in some way? >> you said you were always curious even as a child. was there always interest in being an artist? and if not, how did that journey happen? >> yes, but i didn't know it. i was a creative kid. i was a dreamy kid. all my report cards when they came out, every one consistently
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said, "ann could do better if she just stopped daydreaming." the but it -- >> yeah. >> did you ever have -- >> every day. every day. >> of course, i think it reflects on what was happening in the classroom. of maybe -- i couldn't maybe concentrate. maybe i had attention deficit disorder, i don't know. nowadays they have terminology for that sort of thing. but it's the dreams that are a part of the creative process. so nowadays i think we know better, more insight into these things, you know. >> yeah. and all children don't learn the same. >> yeah. >> i think there is an indictment on my part, not that you asked, but if i have an dime in the educational system -- there are many indictments, but one is we think all children learn the same. they don't. >> absolutely not. if i remember right -- i'm left handed. i was lucky because i didn't -- >> that means you're really creative. >> they say. i was fortunate in that i wasn't reprimanded as so many of my
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generation of kids coming up. and parent and grandparents before them, they had the ruler on the -- like you must learn how to write. we were taught with a very kind of this -- this somewhat abusive style. now that we know better, we know kids don't have to be reprimanded. they don't flour whiish when the being punished. there are better alternatives in educational terms. >> in this country, i could cite the incidents on the front of sports pages and news pages about whether or not there is a better way to discipline children. >> are you talking about corporal punishment as opposed to non-corporal punishment? >> one aspect. >> that's right. that's right. >> i want to get back to "nostalgia" in a second. before i do so, i would be remiss -- i mentioned to your fans, you sold some 83 million-plus record around the
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world, solo records and your eurythmics stuff. when you look back on those days, what do you think? >> well, i think we were extraordinary survivors, i really do. what people see are the results of creative work. they see videos, they hear the music. if they are still into buying some ancient vinyl or whatever, they might still -- c.d.s. that's what they see. they see the results. what ythey don't know is the bak stories and what it took in terms of survival to make it happen. they don't need to know the stories, but i lived them. it didn't just come overnight. dave and i and the tours, the previous group we created with another man before, pete cooms, we toured the world. it wasn't like it came overnight. then when dave and i came out of the ashes of that band because it broke up, we broke up, we
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made another record for eurythmics, "in the garden," and nothing happened in terms of commercial success. to be frank, you need that. it's -- gasoline in the tank, you know.w@ku and then we created "sweet dreams." at this point in time, we were on our -- our fifth album that we'd made together. i was kind of ready to go back to school with my -- to scotland with mytati tail between my leg take on a teaching position and time to give up. with perseverance, it went on from there. and it was hard, hard work and challenging. and it is, t. it has its own momentum. it was a decade of creativity like that. and it -- it is extraordinary. i mean, i'm amazed myself that we lasted the course so well. that we came out of it sane. that we, you know -- that we're still alive and kicking, and
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we're both doing our own special thing. >> yeah. not just alive and kicking, but still creative. >> and creative. >> innovative which is tough to do in this business. >> it certainly is. and you know what, it's getting harder and harder. when i hear a record company -- record company executives talking about, you know, the background of like what it is to have a young artist these days, all the artists themselves or anybody in mooth -- anybody within the music industry talking about what does it take to break a young artist -- okay, we know some of though ingredients. but the real deal is how do you sustain that artist. and here the other thing -- how did they stay sane and sober because really that an issue. you know, how did they stay healthy in psychological terms apart a from anything else? what you tend to see is young artists come up like this. and i can almost guarantee you will see them going down like -- a tailspin. that's not holiday for that person. >> so your argument is if i were to use i guess -- your argument is it's better to take off like
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a jet plane than like a rocket? >> if you're going to take off, it's better to take off on a smoother gradient than just a rapid acceleration. and then an explosion and a burnout to nothing. i think that must be so, so hard for these -- you know, they say star, there t. they're all aspiring to be a star. they have no concept of what that really january tails. it's kind of like a team of people put that celebrity person together. and then you have flat-out burnout. and that person's just discarded. and there's nothing worse than thinking of yourself, i'm a has been. i'm a has been. i am valueless. >> at 24. >> at 24. >> yeah. yeah. so then to what do you attribute your sustainability across decades now? >> i think it's -- good question to ask other people. you know, they would have their comment about that. i will say that because i come
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from my background where we didn't have much, and my values in my family were very socially conscious, kind of politically conscious, too, i think that stood me in good stead. the other thing is that i didn't get hooked into drugs or alcohol abuse. i have to say that. it's not because i'm whiter than white. i'm a person with many, many flaws. i was fortunate not to go down that route. it would have destroyed me, okay. and then also, this word " celebri celebrity" that i mentioned before -- have you heard that word? it seems to be the currency nowadays. it's about a superficial thing that actually has no substance, no value whatsoever. and everybody gets tagged with the same brush, "celebrity." it's meaningless, useless. you're tossed out like yesterday's garbage. that is very disconcerting for me. and i always said to myself, i'm
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a human being, i'm a creative person, i'm a musician, i'm many things. celeb celebrity, it's just an anomly for me. i try to avoid places where people are pumped up to be -- red carpet, all -- opening of a -- we're all there. this kind of side of this music industry i've never been comfortable with ever. you know, i love to talk about my work. if i've done work, yes, i'll come and talk about. i will avoid all of that -- it's not for me. >> yeah. i of in a conversation with a friend of mine -- i was in a conversation with a friend of mine the other night. he was making a distinction between celebrities and stars. his point was that anybody these days can be a celebrity. you can be famous for being famous. you haven't really done anything, you're famous for being famous. there's celebrities all around us. but bona fide stars, you know, is a different sort of thing. i see you beyond -- you're not
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just a celebrity. >> i don't even go for the word "star." in a weird way, i think -- maybe for some people, but that's a projection. >> you don't have to accept it. i'm putting it on you. >> thank you. you're putting it on me. >> this is my show. yeah. >> it's not an insult. >> no, not at all. it is not an insult.of -- speak have you been insulted in this business over the years? are there thing you have taken as insults from the industry, from the public -- >> yeah, yeah. many, many, many, many -- how many times can i say many? many times. moving mucho. that's the deal. you get put on a pedestal. people see -- there are you on the pedestal. you're the best thing since sliced bread. you're amazing and -- the flip side, you're a piece of something i will not say on your program, promise. everybody knows the piece i'm talking about under your shoe.
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people talk -- >> gum. >> gum. you're a piece of gum. there you are. people like to hammer you. it's a schizophrenic experience that people put you up on this, holier than thou, and down there. i try, if i can't, when it's tough, when i hear very nice compliments and like them -- obviously people like to be complimented. i take it graciously, but i don't let it go to my head. i kind of let it go. the abuse sometimes that you get is harder to process. very natural human thing is like you heard. you really hurt, you're angry and want to punch paback. but you have to do with that, too. what i think is that it make you more grounded. you have to be more grounded. you have to see it for what t. and you have to understand the game. then just know your strengths, know your weakness and that you're a human being just like everybody else. that's the great leveler.
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>> yeah. i'm going to ask a question, and i'll tell you why i'm asking before i take your answer. did you have to fight, work hard to do this project, "the nostalgia," which is your reinterpretation of many of the classics in the american songbook, or did this project come easily? i ask that because often times artists get boxed in by the industry, the fans. this by your own admission is something you've never done before. does the question make sense? >> absolutely. totally makes send to me. for years -- makes sense to me. for years, urhythmyx and artists had to keep the influence of record company and record company decisions controlled. obviously the record companies want whatever the record company want, et cetera i have been so fortunate because once i made "nostalgia," i had an idea. i said, i want to be signed to blue note records. the classic jazz label. it's been going for 75 years. the new head of blue note is don
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worth. and i happened to meet don in february here in los angeles and played him my album. he loved it. i said, "i want to be on blue note s. that possible?" he was like, "yeah, come on board with us." "yes." so i'm on blue note. and blue note are a subsidiary of capital records, and a gentleman named steve barnett, he's been -- the music industry, we don't know who we are. we're like the polar bear on the sort of dissolving ice, you know, what do you call those thing -- >> ice caps. >> ice caps. here you have a sort of dissolving music industry. people trying to understand what are we -- where's the sustainability. so i've been very, very fortunate because here in america i'm signed to blue note under capital records label. and everybody has been incredible. it's the first time that i feel personally that i've worked
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collaboratively. why? they understand what i'm trying to do and wlclisten to what i w. we have freedom. they have facilitated making this vinyl album so beautiful with the artwork inside -- >> speaking of which, i'm about to go there. jonathan anybody, can you get this -- i love -- can i say i love? good lord. that is a -- that's a gorgeous photo. >> well, the idea is that there's a timelessness in all of it. and that the sky is the the one thing that accompany all of us from the dinosaur times all the way up to now. that is the one continuum that we have. it's the element of the planet in the sky. that is the "nostalgia." the deeper meaning of nostalgia. the sky -- don't you think the sky is such an amazing thing? i'm always looking at the changing mood of the sky. and music and -- again, another
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sort of evocative thing that just bring out feelings in people. >> the sky is amazing, so one more time, so is that dress, though. look at that dress! i don't know if you can get that. can we -- yeah. >> i didn't make it myself. >> did you feel good in it, though? you look good. >> okay. so when you're a performer, you want to wear something that is appropriate for your performance. >> right. >> you know? and yeah -- i've always had the opportunity to wear thing on stage to emphasize a in some sort of way. which is a slightly surrealistic dress. >> talking about silly stuff -- although fashion isn't silly. >> not about fashion, it's about costumes. something a bit different. your costume is the tools of your trade if you think about it. if you think about somebody like jail brown, godfather of soul, and how he came on and how he was, dynamic and powerful and all of that. psychedelic. all of those incredibly
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interesting kind of innovative ways people dress and caught people's attention. you know, it's the costuming of music that's interesting, too. >> speaking of costumes, this is silly, but i want to say it anyway. one of the things aside from your just powerful and brilliant and lovely voice, when i got turned on to you, who is this woman with this cool, sexy, short haircut? all these years, you have rocked this -- rocked this look. >> well, it's easily maintained. i'll tell you that. >> i was about to ask you, is that by choice? >> it's very economical. very easy to do. >> right. >> and it's just easy. that's the beltway goway it goe. you sport a short haircut yourself. >> mine is not so much by choice. it gets thinner as you get older. >> oh. >> but i raise that only because your fan know you by your voice, and they know you by your look. that look is just -- it's worked
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for you for all these years. >> we're all born with what nature givers you, we try make the best of it, face it. >> you have done that. you have done that. this is a wonderful, wonderful project. i've so much enjoyed this conversation. i'm glad you could stick around for two nights. i may never have this opportunity again. >> i appreciate it -- >> i do now. the new project from the one and only annie lennox is called "nostalgia." it is a wonderful project where she reinterprets in her own way, of course, these wonderful classic songs and the american songbook. we're talking "georgia on my mind." and "i put a smell on you" and "summertime," and "strange fruit," and "the nearness of you," and "mood indigo." thanks to blue note, we get to hear annie do something she has not done at least before on record. there's a vinyl version, bam. c. did. version, bam. and there's the real version. >> bam. here i am. >> i love to have you here. i've enjoyed having you. >> my pleasure.
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>> that's our show for tonight. thanks for watching. and as always, keep the faith. ♪ georgia georgia ♪ ♪ no peace just an old song ♪ ♪ sweet georgia on my mind for more information, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with norman here, a man who inarguably changed television forever. that's next time. see you then. ♪
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and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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. next a special report on key election issues involving science. a look at hydraulic fracturing or fracking and why opponents want it banned. the drought and proposition 1 and how would the bond measure change california's bond measure and genetically engineered food. the technology behind it and debate on the labels on it. science at the ballot box. good evening and welcome to science at the ballot box an election special produced by kqed newsroom and science series quest. i'm treen

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